War on Terrorism

Monday, March 08, 2010

Pakistan's Nuclear Future: Reining in the Risk

Unfortunately, a nuclear terrorist act is only one—and hardly the most probable—of several frightening security threats Pakistan now faces or poses. We know that traditional acts of terrorism and conventional military crises in Southwest Asia have nearly escalated into wars and, more recently, even threatened Indian and Pakistani nuclear use. Certainly, the war jitters that attended the recent terrorist attacks against Mumbai highlighted the nexus between conventional terrorism and war. For several weeks, the key worry in Washington was that India and Pakistan might not be able to avoid war. Similar concerns were raised during the Kargil crisis in 1999, and the Indo-Pakistani conventional military tensions that arose in 2001 and 2002—crises that most analysts (including those who contributed to this volume) believe could have escalated into nuclear conflicts. The intent of this book is to conduct a significant evaluation of these threats. Its companion volume, Worries Beyond War, published in 2008, focused on the challenges of Pakistani nuclear terrorism. These analyses offer a window into what is possible and why Pakistani nuclear terrorism is best seen as a lesser included threat to war, and terrorism more generally. Could the United States do more with Pakistan to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons holdings against possible seizure? It is unclear. This book argues that rather than distracting our policy leaders from taking the steps needed to reduce the threats of nuclear war, we would do well to view our worst terrorist nightmares for what they are: Subordinate threats that will be limited best if the risk of nuclear war is reduced and contained.

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